Melvin Canham – My Finale – Co-op Bank, Abbey National, Santander



I have finally managed to getting around to send a proper thank you. What can I say, I’m finally coming back down to earth after an absolutely overwhelming time – I cannot thank you enough.

They came from far and wide – Yorkshire, Cheshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Buckinghamshire & Northamptonshire – to say Friday the 14th October was like all our yesterdays is an understatement and many of you will have seen the pictures on Facebook but for anyone who is not switched onto this social media thing or prefers to keep a low profile (for various reasons I assume!!!!) and wishing to see specifics or the whole ‘kit & kaboodle’ feel free to email me (now that I’m up to date – it won’t take me forever to respond, honest!). I’m not including them all on here at this time as your mail box would probably crash but a selection of some familiar faces have been selected.

Due to the high numbers of people in Wetherspoons that evening and despite Shonagh, Adrian & myself throwing our voices as best we could, there were several complaints of not hearing the speech – well it is always was a rowdy crew on a Friday evening after work (I thought all the businesses had been replaced by hotels in Prescot St (which they have) and no one other than us would be in there – WRONG! A few asked for the speeches to be circulated, so please find attached my poem – I wanted to attach Shonagh’s but having sent it to my home I couldn’t remember the password I’d used to retrieve it!!!!! (hopefully Shonagh can send it upon her return from sunnier climes if still required and I don’t have Adrian’s either but recall the sentiments of everything below. Having worked in Prescot St for some 34 years there couldn’t be a more fitting place to end up having a drink or several and that’s where Adrian came in with his speech, which linked in nicely.

The sentiments of Adrian’s words were- that both myself & Adrian got our life education in Prescot St (so true) and there have been so many changes down that road since I was a young snip of a thing! The road was basically an extension of the city complete with offices from beginning to end, with the exception of one pub, The Princess of Prussia – which is now half the size it was (honest – as the Co-op demanded to take the other half back, I kid you not) and a school playground! Along with a couple of derelict buildings (Sarah Pyke House) and being young, our lives centred around the pubs in the vicinity, many of which became our ‘locals’ depending on the mood and group we happened to be going with at the time. Prescot Street has since been replaced by a number of hotels, a Wetherspoons and the Co-op building both myself and Adrian were in, is now a block of flats and another set of flats are being erected opposite Wetherspoons as I type!

The sentiments of Shonagh’s words (I’m using lot of authors licence here) were – It all started way back in 1979 where having failed a few interviews/ tests, I ambled up to the Co-op Bank Clearing Centre in Leman Street (entrance in Prescot St) to take a taxing test of 2 adding, 2 subtracting & 2 multiply, add to that the line ‘take your time’ (I can only assume they must have been desperate) which even I could pass and hey presto a banker was born! In them days it really was a job for life – interest free personal loans, lifetime mortgages between 2-3% and err, final salary pensions 🙂 – oh how the world has changed! (Yes Shep was a pup, Tuffty taught us how ‘not to buy’ an ice cream & we did only get an orange for Christmas – I can see all of you with your ‘air violins’ as I type!) My life in banking was very primitive in them days in a department called Town & Sundries, balancing hundreds/ thousands of cheques & credits daily via an adding machine, went to the clearing house for the morning call (settlement of the day previous figures with all the other banks) where I would literally say I charge you Barclays XXXX and they would return with I pay you Co-op XXX – woe betide anyone who couldn’t agree, the clock was ticking and the evil eye of the inspector was looming! The afternoons were equally as much fun when we went back to the Clearing House via the shops, cafes and occasional pub to undertake Town Clearing (I’m sure Mr Bill Andrews will be familiar with that one) – yet more payments to process only in much larger amounts on yet another adding machine. I will never forget the day a rather obnoxious lady from Nat West fell from her perch onto the rather hard floor only to drag herself up looking extremely red faced, nobody could come to her aid as the whole place were literally crying with laughter – now that may seem harsh but it really was ‘justice’!

Moving swiftly on, after 4 years my next port of call was Differences – the settlement of interbank clearing differences (the link between branches and other clearing banks) – think cheque/ credit encoding errors via a young school leaver named Henry or Sally on an encoding machine (Q the ‘air violins’ again), leaving the branch incorrectly right through to the other banks, being claimed / settled later on, by us. I became a Supervisor and we worked hard but there were soooh many memo’s and bits of paper, but boy did we have a state of the art MI system – we liked to call it ‘hand counting’, one late Friday afternoon while using the aforementioned MI system one of my colleagues exclaimed with excitement, this is like the ‘Blue Peter appeal’ (get down Shep). After 3.5 years I was party to a training programme of ‘would be bankers’ as the Co-op/ Abbey National agency relationship was about to become estranged due to the new inductees into Clearing Banking and the cheque save/ Multipurpose sort-codes 086090 & 086091 were about to become 090126 & 090201 and a star was born, well not quite but the Abbey National did become a fully fledged clearing bank and some months later I took a leap of faith, despite a ‘no-poaching agreement’ between the said companies, applied for an equivalent role in an equivalent department virtually next door to the Co-op and guess what, one of the key people I trained just happened to be in the interview and by this time clearly knew that what I’d been teaching her wasn’t all mumbo jumbo, which resulted in getting the post in Clearing Differences/ Accounts, 28th November 1988. Well as the old addage goes ‘same s**t different field’ but not quite, I very quickly became an Assistant Manager, which resulted in all sorts of unknown territory – interviewing, budgeting, capcity planning etc (yes I know what you’re thinking, how lucky was I!) and the initial working till midnight, pizza delivery and cab home (on the Company of course) to be back at my desk by 8 the next morning (oh these were the good ol’ days!). Anyway, time moved on 3.5 years to be exact and I’d really had enough of this memo/ settlement malarkey and decided to do something completely different (was that Monty Python or woody Allen – I can never remember, but I’m sure some of you are old enough to point it out). Mind you, it hadn’t been without it’s laughs, for example – there was a time when a branch requested a photocopy of a microfilmed cheque which was usually requested by providing a fixing on the add listing i.e. the item before the required cheque and the item after it, but this branch decided to provide it via the measurement on the listing i.e. so many inches from the top and so many from the bottom! then there was the time a branch requested a photocopy by cutting out the relevant part of the microfilm, attaching it to a 3ply speed memo (email hadn’t been thought of in most of Britain let alone Abbey National at that time) and asking for our assistance to process it – I could go on but we’d be here for an eternity!

Anyway, after a successful interview by none other than one Val Bridges and a leaving do complete with decorated desk, pressies and a surprise party, I started my new career with Shareholder Services at Baker St destined for a years secondment in Sheffield. I was elated at my leaving do and of course a little apprehensive when I started on that Monday morning. All seem to be going well after my first day albeit a little drained, so it was with great anticipation that the entire team were called to the board room for a fond farewell to Baker St for new horizons in Sheffield, only to be told the project had been canned and the team were redundant, all except yours truly who was due back in Prescot St on Wednesday – I shall never forget the infamous quote from Chris Nagle (Head of Personnel) ‘I feel really sorry for you Melvin, I know you had your leaving do on Friday ’cos I saw you but I couldn’t say anything’ and then after being told by Chris I could go back to Prescot St on Monday (4 days off – rubs he’s hands together) I get a call from my old Manager Mike Selman (Prescot St) to say ‘if you’re not working I can do with you here – I’ll see you in the morning’!

Following a fiurther 6 month stint in my old department, the ‘midddlle management axeman cometh’ yes the ‘R’ word revisited but this subsequently led to promotion (something good out of something bad etc etc) as ‘Manager – Data Reconciliation’ oh how they loved their titles and politics in them days (bring on the power dressing society – move over Blake, Alexis & Crystal Carrington!!!!), promotion wasn’t so taxing for me I’d done all the managerial stuff when I was an able assistant (matter of opinion I know) so after another 6 months I offered my services to a rather dejected QA Manager (steady) as a full time internal auditor for Clearing’s registration to BS5750 (renamed ISO 9000, 2001 etc – you get the picture)- to say I’d found my niche is an understatement I loved every minute and eventaully led to The Implementation Manager’s job. My time in QA took me to some exotic places around the Globe sorry Britain including registration of Banking Centres – Belfast, Glasgow, Leeds etc (whereby all 19 centres were required to work consistently to the letter) and my consultancy role saved the Company thousands when I managed to implement & get registered the Abbey National Printworks & Stationery Stores at Southam without any non-conformances, an accolade I shall take with me to the proverbial!

As we all know the wind changes, along with new regimes, the Printworks & SS were sold off and the registration was no longer flavour of the month so me clipboard & me BSI standard went to that ‘Quality Assurance’ graveyard in the heavens along with such likes as self certification (ready to be dusted off for Attestation – you know I knew I’d seen that before) and faced with a revisit of the revisit after a short stint reporting into Chris Jell in MK looking after Mortgage & Banking Code of Conduct compliance, I went cap in hand back to the Senior Exec/ Management Team in Prescot St who welcomed me back with open arms (well that’s my story – infact I was in demand as 3 Senior Managers were happy for me to join their team), to look after the Banking Code of Conduct for awhile (step in regulation – disband the code), which fortunately morphed into anything complaincey (yes I know it’s not a word but you get the gist) and the Op Risk extrordinare that you last had before you in October (I now relinquish that title to whoever feels they can wear that crown but I warn you its quite a burden to carry) – it wasn’t always a straight forward road first we were integral to the business, then we were central (Manufacturing), then we were back in the business – you get the drift, please forgive me but I often didn’t know if I was a hub or a spoke, a level 1, 2 or 3 (no I’m not talking about Playstations – those of you who don’t know who Shep or Tuffty were) but my last 8ish years were spent in central (having previously got my first ‘coaching’ in GMTO with Jennfier Boal for Ian Clowes/ Yasmine Jetha). During my time in Op Risk, I was kindly led round the building by a rather slightly dotty Manager (Jill Dyer – sorry but it’s time to name and shame) carrying a washing line full of pegged odd socks and made to wade through the local park pond – clearing anything that didn’t look remotely like wildlife and then took part in a plastic duck race on the said pond, needless to say my sponsored duck ‘wet & wild’ (it’s coat was a leopard skin – aptly named if I may say so myself) is probably still running (actually it isn’t it proudly sits in my mum’s bathroom).

There you have it, a kind of whistle stop (including some little anecdotes) tour of my 37 years – as you can imagine if I’d recited that on the 14th October, you would all have been begging for mercy or joined the ‘Airplane’ (take me now brigade) so I conjured it up in a jovial little – ok middle to long ish poem – as attached. Hopefully the prose above was jovial enough to keep you awake!

OK – time for a few special thank you’s

• Cheers for everyone who took the time to come along to my leaving do in Prescot St (& mini leaving do in MK)

• Cheers for everyone who contributed to the retirement fund – you’ll be pleased to know the Smoker has now been erected and is poised to go – thought I’d start small and build on it, so I’m going with a nice big Smoked Ham, well there’s nothing like the deep end is there – let’s face it after 37 years why change the habit of a lifetime, I’m sure you’ll agree the text book training before you do the job certainly never applied in banking – i think it’s called in-flight or live training (akin to – shh you know what)

• You’ll be please to know that my Retirement has started well – I’ve already read one of the books my friends at Islington bought for me and I’m surrounded by so many pressies provided by your good selves, all thanks to the collection team – Les, Mike, Amy, Islington (you know who you are lol)

• MASSIVE thanks to Sean / Shonagh who ensured my last year / working hours were pleasurable and co-ordinated the whole sha-bang

• MASSIVE thanks to Adrian & extra MASSIVE thanks to Shonagh for their comments/ speeches at the do

Finally thanks all for your support & friendship over the years. I’d be lying if I said it was all plain sailing but there are far more highs for me than lows.

If anyone is passing or looking to venture to Norfolk please feel free to drop in – we love having visitors – just give me a ring and I can let you have the details. As I said before for those who wish to stay in touch:

Click here to email me (sorry but I couldn’t have one of them boring melvin.canham’s even if it is easy to remember!)

Best Wishes & Kind Regards,




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